My neighbor Jose had just adopted a special pit bull from the local rescue shelter. It had been the faithful companion for five years of Jose’s elderly friend who had passed away a few months earlier. Because pit bulls have a bad rap, nobody wanted the dog, so the shelter planned to put it to sleep. When my neighbor learned that his friend’s faithful companion was about to be killed, he immediately adopted the dog. I don’t know about cats having nine lives, but that dog definitely got a second life.
That dog went everywhere with Jose. The dog’s name was Lucky, but Jose made a point of calling him something like “Lu-key.” Jose even got that large pooch service-dog certified, which meant he could take that dog into the supermarkets and even into the county fair.
Last July, I was assigned to judge the taco eating contest. A few months later the county fair started. Somehow Jose managed to get Lucky into the fair on my judgment day. According to him, the ticket office at first refused to let Lucky the service dog go in, because of all the other animals there. So Jose was sent to the exhibitor’s entrance, where the fair’s president was. After the president argued with Jose a bit, he was left at the gate with Lucky while the fair officials argued about what to do. During that time, exhibitors with other dogs, cats, pigs, and birds of all kinds, came into the fair through that same gate. Lucky looked at those other animals but did not budge from Jose’s side. Not a sound came from him, though other animals sometimes made a racket. The president noticed that and then decided to let Jose and Lucky conditionally come in; Lucky was in no way to disturb the other animals, children, or people.
A local guy named Walt came to the taco eating contest as a participant, not letting his wife know. We had TV-like tables set up with fifteen Mama Juanita’s Taqueria soft-shelled chicken tacos on each one, the best tacos for hundreds of miles. The contestant who at them the fastest won the contest. It happened that Jose and Lucky were the closest to Walt’s table.
Well, no sooner had I blown the start whistle than Walt’s wife screamed out his name, “Walter Higgins! Get over here!” At that shout, he jumped up and bumped over his table filled with tacos, in front of Lucky. Walt then bolted away from that area as fast as a rooster with its tail feathers aflame. Well, Lucky apparently felt lucky, so he jumped the few feet needed to get at all those tacos on the ground in front of him and started gobbling them down. It wasn’t long before all the contest spectators were watching Lucky, some aiming their Instagram-linked iPhone cameras at him. It was only later we discovered that CNN also had a cameraman at that event. Not only did Lucky eat all the tacos, but he was also the first to finish them as well!
Since the top two human taco eating contest champions were state-level champs, it didn’t take the local folk much time to declare, over the protest of those two guys, Lucky the 2015 taco eating contest winner. CNN national news and its website showed scenes of Lucky gobbling up the last of the tacos. The fair’s Facebook page ended up with the greatest number of views in local history. The social media sensation Lucky would become the “picture boy” for the next state fair.
500,000-Year-Old Wooden Structure Rewrites History
In an archaeological discovery, a wooden structure dating back an astonishing 500,000 years has been unearthed on the banks of a river in Zambia, challenging long-held beliefs about the capabilities of ancient humans. Researchers stumbled upon these ancient wooden logs, a revelation that has the potential to reshape our understanding of the lives of early humans.
The find, located on the riverbanks near Zambia’s Kalambo Falls, provides compelling evidence that stone-age people may have constructed primitive shelters, forever altering our perception of their intelligence and resourcefulness. Archaeologist Prof Larry Barham, who led the research, was profoundly impacted by the discovery, stating, “This find has changed how I think about our early ancestors.”
What makes this find truly remarkable is that it suggests ancient humans did more than merely survive; they thrived by creating something entirely new. These early humans exhibited intelligence, imagination, and craftsmanship by fashioning structures from wood, a material that had never before been transformed into such large and sophisticated objects.
The researchers also uncovered ancient tools, including digging sticks, but the most exciting find was two pieces of wood positioned at right angles to each other. “One is lying over the other, and both pieces of wood have notches cut into them,” explained Geoff Duller, a professor of geography at the University of Aberystwyth and a member of the research team. “You can clearly see those notches have been cut by stone tools, making the two logs fit together to become structural objects.”
Radiocarbon dating confirmed the wood’s age, placing it at a staggering 476,000 years old. This revelation has ignited curiosity about the woodworking traditions of ancient societies, challenging the prevailing notion that early humans led simplistic, nomadic lives.
Perrice Nkombwe, a team member from the Livingstone Museum in Zambia, expressed her astonishment, saying, “I was amazed to know that woodworking was such a deep-rooted tradition. It dawned on me that we had uncovered something extraordinary.”
The preservation of the wooden structure itself is a miracle. Typically, wood decays over time unless preserved under specific conditions. However, in the waterlogged environment along the Kalambo Falls, the wood remained intact, essentially pickled by the elements for millennia.
While the exact purpose of this ancient wooden structure remains a mystery, it has sparked numerous speculations. Prof. Duller suggests it might have been used as a place to sit beside the river and fish, although a complete understanding of its function remains elusive.
Moreover, the identity of the individuals who constructed this structure raises intriguing questions. “We don’t know – it could have been Homo sapiens, and we just haven’t discovered fossils from that age yet,” Prof. Duller added. “But it could be a different species – [perhaps] Homo erectus or Homo naledi – there were a number of hominid species around at that time in southern Africa.”
This discovery has the potential to enrich our understanding of ancient woodworking techniques, craftsmanship, and human interaction with the environment. As researchers continue their work at the Kalambo Falls site, the pages of history are being rewritten, and our appreciation for the ingenuity of our ancient ancestors grows ever deeper.
California Costco Worker’s Act of Kindness Earns Him Employee of the Month
In the bustling aisles of a Costco store in Clovis, California, a heartwarming story of honesty and compassion recently unfolded. John Sotelo, a dedicated employee, was going about his daily tasks, putting away cases of water, when he stumbled upon an envelope that would change the course of his day and touch the hearts of many.
As Sotelo reached for one of the water pallets, his sharp eyes caught sight of a small envelope nestled among the bottles. Curiosity piqued, he picked it up and decided to take a look inside. To his astonishment, he discovered an incredible sum of $3,940 in cash within the envelope.
Most people might have been tempted to keep such a substantial amount of money, but not Sotelo. He knew that this money belonged to someone, and his strong sense of honesty and integrity guided his actions. Without hesitation, he promptly informed his manager about the discovery.
Sotelo’s manager quickly recognized the gravity of the situation and decided to review the store’s customer surveillance footage to identify the owner of the lost envelope. It wasn’t long before they located the rightful owner, a Costco member who had unknowingly dropped her precious savings.
What followed was a heartwarming reunion between John Sotelo and the envelope’s owner. The member was overwhelmed with gratitude and could hardly contain her emotions as she thanked Sotelo profusely. She explained that the money was intended for her children’s education, making Sotelo’s act of kindness all the more significant.
Sotelo’s selfless and honorable action didn’t go unnoticed by his colleagues and superiors. In recognition of his integrity and compassion, he was awarded the coveted title of “Employee of the Month.”
Sotelo’s unwavering honesty and his commitment to helping others in their time of need remind us all of the power of simple acts of kindness. His story also highlights the importance of maintaining our faith in the goodness of humanity and the belief that doing the right thing is always worth it, no matter the circumstances. John Sotelo’s actions have not only earned him recognition but also the admiration and gratitude of his community, proving that integrity and compassion are values that should be celebrated and upheld.
Florida Officials’ Heroic Efforts to Free Baby Bear Cub from Tree
In a heartwarming and daring rescue operation, two Florida officials recently joined forces to save a baby bear cub trapped in a tree. This harrowing tale of bravery and determination unfolded when the cub found itself in a tight spot, stuck in the crook of a tree, desperately in need of help.
The saga began when a concerned citizen discovered the baby bear cub in a precarious situation. The cub’s back paw was firmly wedged in the tree, leaving it unable to escape on its own. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, a bear biologist was swiftly called in to assist. The clock was ticking as the Florida sun beat down on the rescuers, motivating them to work as quickly as possible.
The initial attempt to free the cub involved a slippery solution – dish soap. The rescuers gently soaked the trapped paw in dish soap, hoping to create enough lubrication to ease the cub’s escape. Unfortunately, the dish soap proved insufficient, and the cub remained trapped.
Undeterred by this setback, the resourceful rescuers knew they needed a more robust solution. After reaching out to a local resident, they borrowed a chainsaw. With the chainsaw in hand, the two officials carefully coordinated their efforts. One held the baby bear securely while the other began to cut away the tree that held the cub captive.
As the chainsaw roared to life, tension and anticipation filled the air. After what must have felt like an eternity, the tree’s grip on the baby bear finally gave way, and the cub was freed. With palpable relief, the rescuers ensured the cub was unharmed. To their delight, the baby bear appeared to be in good health, showing no signs of injury from its ordeal.
After its examination, it was time to send the baby bear cub on its way, with hopes of reuniting it with its worried mother. The brave cub, once trapped and vulnerable, was now free to continue its journey through the wilderness.
Maine’s Puffin Colonies Defy the Odds
Maine’s rugged coastline, with its picturesque cliffs and crashing waves, is home to some of the ocean’s most charismatic and beloved residents – the Atlantic puffins. These plucky seabirds, known for their distinctive black and white plumage and colorful beaks, have long captured the hearts of nature enthusiasts. However, their story is not just one of charm; it’s a tale of resilience in the face of adversity.
Atlantic puffins, with their striking appearance and comical antics, are a cherished part of Maine’s coastal ecosystem. Yet, these endearing birds have faced their fair share of challenges, including the theft of climate change, which has posed a looming threat to their existence.
One of the most significant concerns for puffins has been the warming waters off the coast of New England. These rising temperatures have disrupted the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem, impacting the availability of prey for puffins and other seabirds. Puffins primarily feed their chicks with sand lance fish, and the warming waters have been linked to a decline in these vital fish.
In 2021, puffin colonies in Maine suffered a sharp decline in chick numbers due to these changing environmental conditions. The future looked uncertain for these charismatic birds. However, in 2022, a glimmer of hope emerged as puffin colonies experienced their second rebound year for chicks.
The exciting news of this resurgence comes as a welcome surprise, especially considering the prevailing concerns about climate change’s adverse effects on wildlife. It defies the expected trends, challenging scientists to dig deeper into the complexities of our changing environment.
Don Lyons, the director of conservation science at the National Audubon Society’s Seabird Institute in Bremen, Maine, remarked on the puzzling nature of this rebound. “This year is a good example of how complex things are. We can’t boil it down to one variable,” he said. “We still have a lot to learn.”
While warming waters and the decline of sand lance fish have been concerning factors, other variables come into play. Climate change’s impacts are not always straightforward and can have unexpected consequences.
The puffins’ second rebound year for chicks offers a glimmer of hope and a reminder that nature can sometimes defy the odds. It highlights the resilience of these remarkable seabirds and the intricate web of factors that influence their survival.
Efforts to protect and conserve Maine’s puffin colonies continue, with researchers and conservationists working diligently to understand and mitigate the effects of climate change on these beloved birds. While challenges persist, the tale of Maine’s puffins serves as an inspiring story of nature’s ability to adapt and thrive, even in the face of adversity.
Discovery of Rare Glossy Black Cockatoo Nest on NSW Mid North Coast
In a groundbreaking discovery that has left conservationists elated, the elusive glossy black cockatoo nest has been found in the lush landscapes of New South Wales’ Mid North Coast. This rare find is a remarkable achievement, as these magnificent birds have kept their nests hidden for over two decades. The glossy black cockatoo, a threatened species in Australia, has long been a focus of conservation efforts due to its vulnerable status. The recent revelation of their nests has ignited hope for the preservation of this iconic bird.
The glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) is a stunning and distinctive bird, known for its glossy black plumage and vibrant red tail feathers. These birds are relatively small in size compared to other cockatoo species, measuring around 45 to 50 centimeters in length. The males can be identified by their bright red cheek patches, while the females exhibit paler, yellowish markings.
These birds are known for their unique feeding habits, primarily feasting on the seeds of she-oak trees. Unfortunately, when their habitat is ravaged by fires, both the she-oak trees and the hollow-bearing trees they use for nesting are often destroyed. This puts immense pressure on the glossy black cockatoo population, making their nests and breeding sites particularly crucial for their survival.
The discovery of glossy black cockatoo nests on the NSW Mid North Coast is a significant milestone in the conservation of these vulnerable birds. Dr. Hawkins, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s senior threatened species officer, expressed the importance of this discovery, saying, “It’s a massive step forward … glossy black cockatoos are among the most-threatened species of cockatoos in Australia and are listed as vulnerable in NSW.”
For two decades, the glossy black cockatoo nests remained hidden from human eyes, making it challenging for researchers and conservationists to assess their breeding success and habitat needs. The nests were shrouded in mystery until a group of dedicated citizen scientists known as the “Glossy Squad” entered the scene.
The Glossy Squad, comprising citizen scientists passionate about conservation, actively participates in the government’s Saving our Species program. Their determination and dedication led to the discovery of three separate glossy black cockatoo nests in the region. These discoveries were made possible through tips from local residents who suspected the presence of these majestic birds in their vicinity.
Dr. Hawkins emphasized the vital role of community involvement, stating, “It’s really hard to find them, and the only way to do it is to have ears and eyes on the ground, a network of community members and citizen scientists who love the birds and pay attention to what the birds are doing on the ground.” This collaborative effort underscores the significance of community engagement in conservation.
The discovery of these nests is not only a cause for celebration but also a foundation for future conservation efforts. Dr. Hawkins noted that two of the nests resulted in fledglings, marking an exciting milestone in the species’ recovery. Through the study of these nests, researchers can gain valuable insights into the breeding habits and success rates of the glossy black cockatoo.
By better understanding these magnificent birds and their needs, conservationists can develop more effective strategies for their protection. The nests provide a window into the glossy black cockatoo’s world, enabling scientists to observe and learn from these elusive creatures.
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